A magnificent opening stand of 188 by Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook went a considerable distance towards saving the First Test for England yesterday.
It was the highest England partnership in their 19 Test matches at the Gabba and the first time in 72 years that both openers had scored hundreds in the same innings against Australia.
At the start of the day, the tourists were still staring down the barrel. By its end they were dwelling on sunlit uplands. A first innings deficit of 221 had been transformed into a lead of 88.
Strauss's was the only wicket to fall in the entire day, essaying an ambitious drive against the part-time off spin of Marcus North to be stumped by Brad Haddin. It was a disappointing end to an innings which, if not flawless, was of abundant character.
The first task for the opening pair, captain and vice-captain, was to survive the opening overs when Australia were likely to be at their freshest and fastest. They did so with surprising ease. The only slight alarm was raised when Cook thick edged Peter Siddle in the air between slip and gully. The four that resulted took the pair’s aggregate runs for the first wicket past the 3249 made by Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe. It was one of the most cherished and enduring records in English cricket and while it had to go some time, it took the Strauss and Cook 44 more innings.
It was Strauss’s 18th Test hundred, his fourth against Australia and his first against any opposition since he made 161 against Australia at Lord’s last year. Cook, who finished the day on 132no, had scored one previous hundred against Australia, on England’s last tour.
Strauss should have been out on 69 when he was badly dropped at mid-off by Mitchell Johnson, who had another forgettable day. But it was a titanic effort by England’s leader after his first innings duck.
He went at a quicker lick than Cook and was clearly prepared to take Australia on. Jonathan Trott joined Cook for a second wicket stand that was barely less prolific than the first and had reached 121 by the close. Both batsmen were dropped late in the day as a profitless day took its toll on Australia with the pitch refusing to offer much encouragement.